Bats good to have around
Knysna Animal Welfare Society (KAWS) was the recipient of an interesting “bird and insect hotel” recently, to help reestablish the pollinators that died or fled during the June fires.
Riaan Bosch, a commercial bee farmer of many years, noted the devastation the fires caused not only among the bee population but among all pollinators, including predators reliant on those pollinators. He noticed, he said, that the entire food chain was affected, which directly influences the ecosystems in the area.
“Unbeknown to me, the orange glow that greeted me when I walked out of my ‘cow shed’ at 7:06 on the morning of 7 June was the start of a whole new life cycle for me… and Mother Nature in our area. I realised that a glow that bright means huge loss of fauna, flora and property. Never did I realise that it was only the one ear of the hippo that I was staring at,” said Bosch.
Giving back to nature
While driving through the fire-stricken areas in the week after the blaze, Bosch said nothing on earth could prepare him for what he saw. He realised his days as a commercial beekeeper was over – not only because he lost all his own colonies but because he sensed that it was time for him to give back to nature. He decided to abandon all his commercial beekeeping interests and rather use his expertise to try and help nature restore itself.
After speaking to some experts on bee, insect and birdlife, Bosch used the nonprofit organisation he started in 2015 – Bees for Nature – to focus on making people aware of the importance of planting the correct plants that are good for nature and even making “bee and butterfly gardens” for people.
He also started producing bat boxes with a specific design for the two insect-eating bats found in Knysna, the Cape serotine and Egyptian free-tailed bats that Bosch says are critical in the cycle of nature. “Nesting boxes for the spotted ear and barn owls are also being made and I assist with advice and installation for both owl and bat boxes,” he says.
Bosch feels more people need to be made aware of the huge advantages that bats hold for humans and the amazing mosquito eaters these two bat species are. “The boxes do not attract fruit-eating bats that might leave acidic droppings on your car,” he says, adding that fruit-eating bats do not roost in boxes but in trees.
The bird and insect hotel – or pollination station as Bosch calls them – was placed at KAWS to show that one can create a bee-friendly garden in a small space. “All the plants in that garden were selected for the value they have for bees. The ‘pollination totem pole’ in the centre is a concept that I developed to show that every garden in Knysna can house items that would be beneficial for insects and birds, which in time would assist with the regeneration of the burnt areas,” explains Bosch.
What does Bees for Nature do?
They create awareness about the importance of insects and bats in the regeneration of the burnt areas.
They use a holistic approach to help bees and insects by educating people to plant beefriendly gardens that would attract all types of insects.
They started a programme to breed as many colonies as possible, to be released in green belts around burnt areas once there is enough foraging in the areas.
Assisting consenting landowners to revive any old hives on their properties by supplying new sterile hives and transferring the swarms from old to new hives while inspecting for diseases. These swarms are then used for the breeding programme.
Plant pollination stations together with bee gardens.
Raise seedlings for pollinator friendly gardens.
Supply free bee-catch hives for homeowners to try and prevent bees from nesting in their homes.
Supply and install bat boxes and owl nesting boxes.
* For more information on Bees for Nature contact Bosch at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.knysnaplettherald.com to see a photo gallery.
KAWS manager Annelien Kitley (left) with the team who set up the pollination station: Rian Venter, Ina Scholtz, Robert Piripiri and Riaan Bosch. INSERT: Hotel ready, insects and birds welcome.
An owl box is not only aiming at helping bees bounce back, but other bird and insect life in the area too, restoring the natural food chain.
This box is aimed at attracting the Cape serotine, an insect-eating bat.